Günther was the greatest sculptor in eighteenth-century Bavaria. This figure is impressive for its spiritual expression, lifelike movement, and smoothly painted pearlescent surface. The faceted planes of the drapery reflect a flickering pattern of light across the surface, further animating the figure. Günther's sensitive modeling is especially evident in Christ's face. Painted on the underside of the base in sepia are Günther’s initials and date: "1754:F:l:G:," indicating that it was made the year Günther was appointed court sculptor to the Bavarian Electorate.
This piece is a variant of a German folk sculpture of the scourged Christ, believed to shed real tears. The miraculous image became the object of a flourishing pilgrimage to the Wieskirche in Bavaria and was copied in engravings and sculpture. Günther’s version reinterprets the model with a feeling of exaltation and passion.
Artist Franz Ignaz Günther, German, 1725-1775
Title
  • Christ at the Column
Date 1754
Medium Lindenwood with polychrome decoration
Dimensions Overall: 29 1/4 × 17 1/4 × 7 1/2 inches (74.3 × 43.8 × 19.1 cm)
Mount: 1 1/4 × 12 × 8 inches (3.2 × 30.5 × 20.3 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Acquisitions Fund
Accession Number 1983.13
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W220, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, underside of base: :1754:/F:I:G:
Marks On a piece of paper found between earth mound and base, believed to be by Gunther's hand: VERFERTIGET IN MUNCHEN DEN 14 SEPT. 1754 (made in Munich September 14, 1754) (This was lost in shipment, but recorded in photographs.)
Inscriptions On underside of base in purple ink: EX VOTO 1947 Josef Bodenthaler Pf. \.! B \.. .! (See artist file, Registrar's office for replication) (Pf. may stand for Pfarrer or Pfarrei, meaning "priest" or "church community")
A niche, either for the Benedictine Abbey Church of Saint
Michael at Attel on the Inn, or for one of the nearby Bavarian parish churches of Babensham/Obb, or of Braunau am Inn;
Bavarian private collection, 1952-1982;
Margret Biedermann (dealer), Munich, 1982;
Eugene V. Thaw (dealer), New York, 1982-1983.
H. Decker, "Ein unbekanntes Frühwerk Ignaz Günthers," Die Kunst und das Schöne Heimat 53 (June 1955), pp. 332-333 (ill)

G. P. Woeckel, "Christusdarstellungen von Ignaz Günther," Das Münster 20 (1967), p. 378-380; p. 377, fig. 24 (ill)

G. P. Woeckel, Franz Ignaz Günther. Der grosse Bildhauer des bayerischen Rokoko (Regensburg, 1977), p. 35, 61, figs. 31-32 (ill)

["Vom Zeichentisch eines Rokokobildhauers," exh. Stadtmuseum, Munich, 1975 (no cat)]

[Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, GEDENKFEIER DER GEMEINDE ALTMANNSTEIN, FRANS IGNAZ GUNTHER, June 22 - 29, 1975, Schnell & Steiner, Munchen]

Bulletin of the DIA 61, no. 3, 1982/83, p. 15 (ill)

S. Mehringer [Gallery], Meisterwerke bei S. Mehringer. Bedeutende Skulpturen und Gemälde (Munich, 1985), p. 7, fig. 4 (ill) [entry by G. P. Woeckel]

Detroit Institute of Arts, 100 MASTERWORKS FROM THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS (NY, 1985), p. 148; p. 149 (ill)

Sculpture Review 35, no. 4 (Winter 1986-1987), p. 8, (col pl)

"Consolidated Audited Annual Report," Artemis 82-83, October 28 1983, p. 19, no. 6 (ill)

P. Volk, "Franz Ignaz Günther's Christ at the Column," Bulletin of the DIA 63, no. 3/4 (1988), pp. 4-13, col. ill. p. 4, detail p. 5 (cover ill)

A. P. Darr and C. Faltermeier, "Günther's Christ at the Column: Notes on Condition and Conservation," Bulletin of the DIA 63, no. 3/4 (1988), pp. 14-15

A. P. Darr, "European sculpture and decorative arts acquired by the Detroit Institute of Arts 1978-87," The Burlington Magazine 130 (June 1988), p. 498, fig. 109 (ill)

P. Volk, Ignaz Günther. Vollendung des Rokoko (Regensburg, 1991), p. 50-51 (ill)

P. Volk, "Kruzifixe von Ignaz Günther," Zeitschrift des deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft 61 (2007), p. 82; p. 83, fig. 1 (ill)

Syson, Luke, Sheena Wagstaff, Emerson Bowyer, and Brinda Kumar. Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2018, pp. 25, 212-213, 239 (fig. 99).